WashingtonExec reached out to area executives to gain insight and share local “secrets to success” stories.
Today’s advice is from Gurpreet Singh, CEO and co-Founder of Seva Search, Inc.
As a small business owner and CEO of a venture backed start-up, I have a lot of experiences and influences that keep inspiring me. The first one that I would like to discuss is tenacity. “You cannot win if you are playing not to lose.” One executive who played to win is Pandora’s Tim Westergren. After more than 300 rejected pitches to venture capitalists, and two years of deferred salary payments to his 50 employees, Tim held his fair share of failure as an entrepreneur. Finally, In his 348 pitch seeking investors, Westergren managed a $9 million dollar investment lead by venture capitalist Larry Marcus. “The pitch that he gave wasn’t that interesting,” Mr. Marcus said. “But what was incredibly interesting was Tim himself. We could tell he was an entrepreneur who wasn’t going to fail.” Pandora now boasts over 35 million music listeners and is the only top 5 application across all mobile platforms. Tim didn’t just play “not to lose”, he played to win. Period.
One of the most important decisions you can make as a CEO is hiring the right people. Independent thinkers with a passion for success are the most valuable individuals to work beside. Inspiration is contagious, Confucius once said “he who says he can, and he who says he cannot, are both usually right”. It is important for the pioneers of a growing startup to wholeheartedly believe in the finished product, even when the returns may not be immediately visible. If you surround yourself with these kinds of people who believe in the same vision that you have, then you are able to trust your staff to operate independently, and efficiently.
I have found in hiring the right people that there is no quality more valuable than an individual’s ethics. For a growing startup, the people who are appointed as leaders must believe in an honest and ethical business model, even during periods of failure. Ethical individuals are not swayed by the allure and greed that has toppled many successful businesses. I believe that solid ethics is the foundation for good communication and trust in one’s management, and trust is the foundation for any self-sustaining enterprise. There are countless examples of greed destroying a business from the top down. Being blinded by the dollar signs comes at a high price. You need people with good ethics who can do the job right without follow up. In fact, Michael Eisner’s reign at Disney was disrupted due to the loss of his right hand man-Frank Wells. That is how important a good employee is.
The most important trait after ethics is the ability to learn. A good employee is someone who can learn to do anything. One of the biggest changes to the web 2.0 world is that the speed of innovation has rapidly increased. There are new programming languages, new software and new media. There is no longer just a set of defined skills; instead, everyone has to keep improving their skill sets.
This learning applies to companies as well. Companies, like people, are learning and evolving, and the companies that embrace change and focus on innovation will survive. This accepted tenet for startups is true for companies of any size. Our ability to adapt is our ability to compete. And competition makes us better.
Background: Gurpreet Singh is the CEO and Co-Founder of Seva Search, Inc. a Potomac area startup that has just launched its first product, Seva Call, which links consumers with local businesses. Singh’s other ventures include an IT consulting company Geeks-on-Site and a popular South Asian social networking website (Years before Facebook) called Desi Vibes, which he established as a teen with his brother Manpreet Singh.